Wednesday April 2 2014
Juve’s French challenge

Juventus face Lyon in the first leg of the Europa League quarter-finals on Thursday. Luca Cetta assesses the pair heading into the tie.

When the draw for the Europa League quarter-finals paired Juventus with Lyon, Fabio Grosso was immediately sought for comment. The newly-installed Bianconeri Primavera Coach represented both clubs in his career, winning Italian and French championships.

“I must admit I got excited when I saw the draw, two teams that are important to me will be facing each other. I’m part of Juventus and will always have Lyon in my heart. I’ve got many friends there and enjoyed a fantastic experience.”

He continued: “I was lucky enough to play with world class talents like Juninho Pernambucano, [Karim] Benzema, [Abdul Kader] Keita and [Jeremy] Toulalan.”

That was then. This is now. It’s no longer the all-conquering club which romped to seven consecutive Ligue 1 titles. This Lyon – led by former defender Remi Garde – is well off the pace set by Paris Saint-Germain. Currently fifth on 48 points, they are six adrift of Europe following inconsistent form.

The continent has also proved a struggle. Dumped from the Champions League in the play-off round, Lyon topped Group I in the Europa, yet scored just six times in as many games. Aside from breaking the shackles and netting four in the Round of 16 first leg with Viktoria Plzen, goals have been hard to come by.

As Grosso notes, there is a youthful outlook in the east of France. “There are a couple of players who were youngsters when I was there and have subsequently managed to break into the first team. The club works very well, they’re serious and passionate about what they do.”

Alexandre Lacazette is one such example. Juve will need to be wary of Lyon’s top scorer who has bagged 14 domestic goals and two in Europe. Strike partner Bafetimbi Gomis has 11 in Ligue 1 and one more than Lacazette on the continent.

Captain Maxime Gonalons was close to Napoli in January, but is now hoping to lead Lyon to the last four. He’ll be looking to make a statement, but former Milan midfielder Yoann Gourcuff is set to miss out because of an ankle problem. He’s one of a number of players unavailable.

The French club go in as the underdog as they host a Juve outfit smarting from only its second domestic loss. Pegged back for long periods by Napoli, the Bianconeri fell to a 2-0 defeat and with it came the end of a 22-game unbeaten run in Serie A. They had won seven straight beforehand.

The favourite to win the Europa League, the question surrounding Juve ahead of the first leg is fatigue. Coupled with injuries, a chunk of the team has been unchanged for a number of matches. That has led to lacklustre performances reliant on moments of individual brilliance rather than overwhelming team showings.

“I believe that we have been missing for a month, players of great worth,” stated captain Gianluigi Buffon after Sunday’s loss. “[Andrea] Barzagli, [Angelo] Ogbonna, we have [Claudio] Marchisio who is slowly coming back, but we also missed [Carlos] Tevez. In short, we were and are in an emergency for the past 30-40 days, with three games a week.”

The Old Lady faces a manageable upcoming domestic run, so the proverbial eggs can be thrown in the Europa League basket as players return. Especially with an 11-point Serie A lead.

Yet Garde can look favourably at how Napoli toppled the Turin club. Juve could not get out of the blocks against a side Buffon says “would spit blood in order to take the scalp of Juventus.” At the Stade de Gerland, where they are unbeaten in Europe this term, Lyon would have to do the same. Rafael Benitez’s men were spot on in stopping Juventus. They outgunned the midfield trio of Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal, stemmed the flow out wide and pegged them back in their half.

Vidal won’t be in France, he sits out suspended. Conversely, Tevez returns. Juve’s top scorer – still without a European goal – is fresh from his own suspension. “I’m calm because sooner or later the goals will come, but it’s not an obsession for me,” he said over the weekend. The Argentine will no doubt be pivotal and an away goal would be the perfect end to the drought.

So how does Grosso see the tie? “They will be two difficult games, but Juventus are aware of their strengths and possess the quality to give anyone a tough time. I’m convinced we’ll see two great matches.”

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Have your say...
on the 6th April, 2014 at 3:00pm
Forza, I wanted Juve to win. They are the last italian team in the mickey mouse league. Would you support Napoli if they were the only team left in the cup? But they played poorly so they should feel no joy. Everything they say is bluster re. that game. They did not conquer anything except a young side you are inexperienced and with injuries. Marotta is a moron as he blames and moans about everything-just like Conte-when it does not go their way. They assume too much. ButJuve should get to semis
on the 4th April, 2014 at 8:21am
@Dino Al
I disagree. Juve didn't play great but Lyon shut shop in their own backyard. Now they have to come out and play which will leave more room for players like Pirlo to play through the ranks. It'll be more comfortable in Turin.
Also, playing so-so and getting a win away from home isn't bad in my books. I'd take 1-0s all the way.
on the 4th April, 2014 at 8:02am
@Mr Blue

And that goal is chasing a trophy, what did napoli achieve vs juve? 3rd spot LOL
on the 3rd April, 2014 at 11:38pm
Tonight Juve played poorly and will have a tough time in Turin.... Can't imagine them winning anything in Europe if they continue playing like this.
on the 3rd April, 2014 at 10:43pm
@Mr Blue

Say what you want about Marotta, but the guy has a point. Napoli is a big club, one with a good history and yet celebrated a win over Juve like they won the title.
on the 3rd April, 2014 at 10:41pm
I thought Juve acted like provincials this evening with their celebrations after scoring that goal. It was only a goal against 5th place Lyon. *ahem moronic marotta*
on the 3rd April, 2014 at 9:15pm
I don't think they drive many FIATs in Indonesia, so I don't think Elkann really cares...
And was it good refereeing in Europe to play an unplayable game in the snow?
Concentrate on your own problems...Inter aren't in Europe and are terrible in the league. Roma have taken advantage of not being in Europe to push for the top, what's your excuse?
on the 3rd April, 2014 at 3:29pm

Start with winning in Europe before being cocky. Maldini's heir wasnt saying our squad is anywhere near Juves and our squad is WAY to big. Problem reading or what?
on the 3rd April, 2014 at 3:12pm
Annoyed because it true?
on the 3rd April, 2014 at 8:50am
Slightly off topic but I thought Verratti and Thiago Motta were excellent last night. I hope Verratti recovers. I don't often watch PSG play so it was a real pleasure to see all 3 Italians (and Pastore bringing back some memories from his days at Palermo!). Italy's midfield mightn't be too bad. Marchisio and Monty need big finishes if they are to deserve a place at the World Cup (I can't see Prandelli not taking them but on this season's form neither deserve to go).
on the 3rd April, 2014 at 8:45am
@ Viktor I completely agree. I try and ignore Conte's comments. While I think he's done a great job at Juve he can be a bit of idiot. Milan did more for Serie A this season in Europe. We ended up getting hammered by Atletico but for where we are as a club we at least managed to get to the knock out stages. Still we may as well get behind Juve for now in the Europa League so that Serie A can at least recover some ground.
on the 3rd April, 2014 at 8:42am
They need to pick their best team for all the remaining Europa games.

This trophy has to be Juve's priority. The league is as good as won and if resting is needed, it should be done there.
on the 3rd April, 2014 at 8:38am
Well it looks like a few million more people will not be buying FIATs because of the FIAT president Elkman. Great for Italian industry that comment. But then again rubentus only care about themselves dont they. They are less successful in Europe because the referees changing room doors in other countries stadiums can be opened from the inside.
on the 3rd April, 2014 at 8:30am
I think juve have an excellent squad, well balanced, what they lack in 1 place they make up for in others. I think their only problem is the size of the squad. With so many players its inevitable that some players will be left out for afew weeks and thats when a player loses that match sharpness but other than that I dont think any of us none juve fan can really criticise the team that has run away with league and the only italian side left in europe. Tevez and pirlo are fundamental for europe
on the 3rd April, 2014 at 7:57am
Spot on maldini heir Juve need a better squad! Sell vidal, pogba, pirlo, bonucci, llorente, buffon and bring in the class of 2014 from milan; what juve need is essien, balotelli, muntari, emanuelson, bonera and honda, with these players juve would be the complete package, I think swapping conte for seedorf will also make the diffrence- with these squad changes next season juve would win the league, champions league, coppa italia- just like milan will do this season!
on the 3rd April, 2014 at 7:27am
"“We should be proud that we are the only Italian team left in Europe for the second season running,”"

That made me really annoyed. Not sure but when it comes to process in Europe throughout Contes era as coach for Juve achieving great results in European football hasn't really been hes greatest talent has it.
on the 2nd April, 2014 at 7:45pm
Gonna put bet on Tevez to score not bad odds to be fair and he must et one soon in europe
on the 2nd April, 2014 at 3:37pm
Very well said thomas, you never hear ancelotti and co complain about too many games.that's what subs and reserves are for(and i think we have very sufficient subs and reserves).If we can't cope with an up and coming serie a and an europa league i just don't know what to expect. It's only going to get harder as serie gets stronger and we compete in UCL not EL.
on the 2nd April, 2014 at 2:54pm
Would be good to see Juve take their eye off Serie A and gun for the Europa League. It may give us a chance to catch them.
on the 2nd April, 2014 at 1:24pm
As a fan of Serie A I really hope that Juve do Italy proud. They're our only hope to recover some ground on the co-efficients!

@ Thomas in fairness while I have concerns about the fitness levels generally in Italy the thing with Conte's teams is they play at high pace and that has to tire out the players. I think Juve need a better (not a bigger) squad if they are to compete on two fronts next season. Milan do not have the same excuse!
on the 2nd April, 2014 at 11:29am
I think Conte makes too much of the fatigue factor. This excuse is used too readily, surely professional athletes can cope with a match every 3/4 days. Tennis players play tournament matches every second day with no complaints. Yes there have been injuries but only in defence. The suspensions to Vidal, Pogba, Tevez recently have helped - in that they have been effectively rested. Europa league should be prioritized when it comes to squad selection. Napoli would be tough regardless of 'fatigue'
on the 2nd April, 2014 at 9:02am

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